Crow Wing County Board District 3: Erickson wants to prioritize property rights
Erickson, 37, said he brings city government experience to the table in his run to represent District 3 on the Crow Wing County Board, along with time spent as a Brainerd Planning Commission member and a decade of work as a transportation planner with the Region Five Development Commission in Staples.
BAXTER — When Tad Erickson cites his strong support of individual property owners’ rights, it’s more than just lip service — he said his work as a Brainerd City Council member since 2019 demonstrates his commitment.
Erickson said the council’s recent successful push to update the city’s zoning code is an accomplishment about which he is particularly proud, given its focus on streamlining permitting processes and allowing property owners more latitude to use their properties in innovative ways.
“The level of thought, time and effort that’s gone into it from city staff, from the Planning Commission, from residents — we’ve done a really good job of giving opportunities for the public to weigh in,” Erickson said during a June 30 interview at Stonehouse Coffee in Baxter. “ … We’re moving towards a form-based (code) to allow more flexibility for residents, for businesses and, quite frankly, the city, to allow more flexibility in development but also maintain a look or feel.”
Erickson said he brings this experience to the table in his run to represent District 3 on the Crow Wing County Board, along with time spent as a Brainerd Planning Commission member himself and a decade of work as a transportation planner with the Region Five Development Commission in Staples. His career, he said, provides him unique insight into the inner workings of county government and requires regular communication with county engineers and staff members in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena.
“I believe in government. I particularly believe in limited government, and I believe in local government,” Erickson said. “In the past 20, 30 years, we’ve moved away from both of those. And obviously not just here, but as a state, as a nation, and even locally, we’ve moved away from local control and limited government. And I want to be a part of beginning to reverse that trend.”
The 37-year-old who originally hails from Little Falls now lives in south Brainerd with his wife and three children. The couple met while in college in Florida, where Erickson pursued a degree in finance with a minor in public administration. The Ericksons home-school their children, just as he was during his school-age years.
Erickson worked for two financial institutions before joining Region Five, where he helps counties and cities in the region identify spending priorities for transportation needs as they seek the use of state and federal funding.
Transportation planning isn’t Erickson’s only gig. He also runs a small business renting bicycles, kayaks and paddleboards, and for four years, he’s delivered pizza for Domino’s for extra income. These roles also contribute to why he’s a good candidate to join the County Board, he said — he knows the struggles of small business owners, and his communication skills and compassion are sharpened by his work in the service industry.
Priorities for Erickson include pursuing sustainable finances for county government, land use deregulation and addressing what he called a housing crisis in Crow Wing County, precipitated by the pandemic making it easier for people to work from anywhere.
He said local governments are overreliant on intergovernmental funding sources, such as local government aid and other state and federal grants, which hamstrings their ability to do what’s best for their residents.
“The local government knows the needs of its residents better than anyone, and a cookie-cutter federal program, or a cookie-cutter state program, designed for to be rolled out across all those larger geographies, may not be the best for our local needs,” Erickson said.
The county’s response to COVID-19 is an example of local government deferring to the state or federal levels, and Erickson said while the previous two years were difficult for everyone, Crow Wing could have devised its own solutions.
“I feel like we’ve taken the scientific process and used that to infringe on individual rights and individual freedoms. And so I think — I'm not saying we shouldn't do any of that, but I'm saying I think it overstepped,” Erickson said. “ … I think the decision-making would have been better handled on the local level than how it was.”
He said the pandemic deepened social problems like mental illness and drug addiction, and he would turn to partnerships with nonprofit and faith-based organizations to help move the needle while supporting staunch criminal liability when appropriate.
Deference to local decision-making extends to Erickson’s belief property owners are better served by government trusting them to take care of or develop their properties with minimal interference. Some guardrails are needed and their actions can’t infringe on others’ rights, Erickson said, but a light-handed approach is ideal. Deregulation in this area, Erickson said, naturally leads to financial savings that also benefit taxpayers while prompting innovation from the private sector.
While Erickson acknowledged some of these regulations are aimed at protecting water quality and the natural resources that make Crow Wing County an attractive place to visit, he said he believes most people do the right thing when given the opportunity. He noted the voluntary suite of strategies as part of the One Watershed, One Plan program are effective without being overburdensome.
Erickson said he would bring a very conservative voice to the County Board while reflecting the younger population in District 3, compared to the county overall. He feels well-equipped to explain complex issues or board decisions to constituents, even if they’re upset or frustrated. He recalled the wise words of his father, who worked as a tax assessor and often faced angry taxpayers at assessment time.
“One thing he taught me was that when you explain the process clearly and just let people understand why, maybe they don't like the answer, but they at least understand why,” Erickson said. “That's gonna eliminate eight-, nine-tenths of the people who have issues. You’re never going to please everyone.”